Prince William Co. asks governor to waive 6-foot distancing for outdoor graduations

Prince William County school officials are asking Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to waive the 6-foot social distancing requirement for outdoor graduations, or shrink it to 3 feet to allow students to distribute more than two tickets.

The letter from school board chairman Babur Lateef said the public school system plans to hold 11 graduation ceremonies at Jiffy Lube Live. While the venue has a seating capacity of over 10,000, requiring 6 feet would limit the number of available seats to about 3,000.

With a graduating class of 750, the school would have approximately 2,250 tickets to distribute.

“The real world logistics of six feet guidance limits each family’s participation to approximately two tickets,” wrote Lateef. “Invariably, grandparents, siblings, friends — or even parents — will be kept from celebrating this rite of passage.”

As an alternative, Lateef suggested Northam reduce the required distance to 3 feet. While not specifying it in his letter, the three-foot distance, while wearing masks, is the same as the current guidance for inside school buildings from the Virginia Department of Education.

“At the very least, a three-foot standard would allow for the possibility of four to five tickets per family,” Lateef wrote.

In a separate letter, Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler added support to the School Board’s request: “In a year where so much has been taken from our students, to severely limit the number of family members and friends able to be present at such an important day takes away the opportunity for students to be recognized for their achievements by those who are closest to them.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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